Filipinos probably still have distinct memories of 2020, when the COVID-19 situation was declared a global pandemic and the entire country was subjected to near heavy-handed lockdowns. In the early days everything outside the homes were shut down – businesses, government agencies, the works – and people depended on possible subsidies and handouts in kind from the local government units. As the year dragged on, some liberties were restored as community quarantine lockdowns were classified, from the severe ECQ to the relaxed but still-vigilant MGCQ. While the community quarantines were necessary in the face of COVID, they have damaged the economy. For that reason, socioeconomic experts are proposing nationwide MGCQ effective March.
The Manila Bulletin reports that the acting head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to consider a relaxation of lockdown levels to Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) across the Philippines starting March 1. Karl Kendrick Chua, acting socioeconomic planning secretary, made the presentation to the President the evening of Monday, February 15, saying it will help greatly in restarting economic activity and alleviate reports of more Filipinos going hungry. Also recommended was adjusting the ages of persons allowed outside of residences as between ages five and 70.
Chua stressed the need for quarantine relaxation due to a recorded increase of hunger incidence and loss of income amounting to a staggering P1.04 trillion, due to workers and employees either working at reduced pay or outright going unemployed due to business closures since March 2020, when the COVID lockdowns began. At present, most of the country is already under MGCQ, save for GCQ areas in Metro Manila; the whole Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR); the provinces of Batangas, Davao Del Norte and Lanao Del Sur; and the cities of Cebu, Davao, Iligan and Tacloban. Localized barangay and municipal lockdowns were proposed to control COVID spread.
So long as the business centers of the national economy in Metro Manila and Cebu remain under stricter quarantine than the rest of the country, recovery remains slow in Chua’s view. He advocates a more equal balance in COVID control and economic repairs. The timing of a nationwide MGCQ status would also coincide with the hoped-for arrival of vaccines against the virus, giving greater incentive to letting more people outside. The current economic downturn the Philippines is experiencing is estimated to be nearly as bad as in post-World War II.
Image courtesy of Rappler